The Trump administration and government authorities are expected to reveal a great push Friday afternoon at the White House to accelerate the spread of the fast next generation of mobile data technology known as 5G.
Under the plan, the Federal Communications Commission will release a wide range of high-frequency air waves for mobile use in what will be the biggest trove for the US wireless spectrum ever to be auctioned. As much as 3.4 gigahertz of the so-called "millimeter wave" spectrum could be sold to wireless operators such as AT & T and Verizon in sales, which begin on December 10, according to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.
The FCC will also propose a $ 20 billion fund to expand broadband in rural America over the next decade, linking up to 4 million households and small businesses to high-speed internet, Pai said. The so-called "Rural Digital Opportunity Fund" could start later this year following a public release and comment.
"We want to get this program up and running as soon as possible because we recognize the need to close digital sharing in rural America," Pai told reporters on a Friday morning conference call.
The two proposals reflect Trump's era's most intensive effort to close down the so-called "digital divide" and get an edge in the global race to build a fully functioning nationwide 5G network. Proposers say the progress that 5G offers over 4G LTE will eventually allow mobile download speeds of up to 1,000 megabits per second – approx. 100 times faster than the current standard – and pave the way for new technologies such as self-driving cars and virtual reality.
Despite his focus on the auction spectrum, Pai's critics say his 5G strategy has overlooked or even caused setbacks in other policy areas.
"So far, administration efforts at 5G have done more harm than good," Jessica Rosenworcel, a democratic FCC commissioner, tweeted Friday. "From the introduction of tariffs on 5G equipment to alienation of allies to 5G security to fall behind the rest of the world on critical mid-band spectrum, it has not yet offered a viable plan for the United States leadership. "
Friday's announcement comes in the face of growing competition from China and other nations moving fast to develop 5G technology.
Whatever country succeeds in implementing 5G early and on a massive scale, it will reap the benefits and shape of the world economy for years, analysts say. For example, the United States can start a dominant position in the growing market for smart devices and the next generation of digital services.
Last week, South Korea became the first country to switch to a nationwide 5G network as its three wireless carriers announced the launch of their commercial services in 85 cities. In the United States, Verizon said last week that it had started offering its 5G service in parts of Chicago and Minneapolis.
The upcoming air wave auction is not the first of the 5G era. Since November 2018, FCC has sold more than 1.5 GHz in spectrum licenses to 5G, according to agency figures. High-frequency waves are considered ideal for 5G because they can carry a great deal of data very reliably, albeit at the expense of range and ability to penetrate walls and other obstacles.
But millimeter waves are not the only form of airwaves suitable for 5G. Carriers such as T-Mobile and Sprint have focused their 5G mid-band or mid-band efforts, airwaves, and have made it the center of their argument for a $ 26bn merger. Mid-band spectrum offers less capacity than the higher band alternatives, but can cover greater distances.
On Friday, Pai said he was obliged to make air waves of all types a priority.
Pai was among a group of US officials who, at an industrial conference in February, pushed Allies to stop using wireless networking equipment from Chinese companies such as Huawei for fear that the equipment might allow Chinese eavesdropping. At the meetings, Trump's European partners largely recognized the risk but disagreed with the US delegation on how to reduce the threat.